I was home for two days before taking another day off work and taking another bus. This time it was Greyhound to Champaign for one night of the Pygmalion Festival. Let me give a little shout out to Greyhound here. While the bus was not quite as nice as the ones that Megabus and Van Galder drive, it was certainly more comfortable with bigger seats and more legroom. Plus it was the only place all day that advertised “free WiFi” where it actually worked. Go Greyhound. While there was a multitude of bands playing at several different venues over the course of three nights, I was only going to see Zeus. I figured if they could come all the way from Canada to play a thirty minute set in Champaign, I could make the trip from Madison to see them do it. And it was worth it, I spent that thirty minutes in a daze.
Despite the fact that the immensely (and somewhat inexplicably) popular Best Coast was the headliner at the cavernous Canopy Club that night, there was only a smattering of people there when Zeus went on. There were a few fans like me, but most were early arrivals, many of whom were predictably blown away by their killer harmonies and impressive musicianship. For every band like Fleet Foxes who haven’t figured out that everyone does not need to sing all the time, there’s a band like Zeus where every member should have a microphone. Which, funnily enough, they don’t. Instead they do it Beatles style, the two doing backing vocals share a mike. The similarities don’t end there, that’s the band I name when asked what they sound like. It’s hard to say a band is like the Beatles without sounding pretentious, but well, there you have it.
Their fleeting set was over in a heartbeat, but it included cuts from their last two full length records plus their signature, but still satisfying, cover. Highlights included “Are You Gonna Waste My Time” and “With Eyes Closed” from the new Busting Visions and the haunting two part “The River by the Garden” and “Kindergarten” from their first release Say Us. The child in the latter has some issues “I don’t want to hit the other kids in anger, oh but I do, but I don’t want to,” pretty heavy, but it avoids being gimmicky. If I were writing the set list I might have left off the cover of Genesis’ “That’s All” but that’s only because there were so many of their songs I wanted to hear, like “Marching Through Your Head” which does exactly that. I’ll admit that channeling Phil Collins is an attention getter and their un-ironic cover is pretty spectacular.
After their set I went over to the merch booth to see if they had anything I could spend money on and ended up getting another shirt and telling their merch guy I’d come all the way from Madison just to see them. “We’ve never played Madison,” he claimed before correcting himself, “oh wait, once. You must have been one of the five people there.” I handed him a card and told him they should come play my basement, to which he declared, “Done!” Oh please, oh please.
I stuck around the rest of the night, but other than seeing Jim Elkington play drums (who knew?) with Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab nothing was that interesting. All those silly people who packed in later for and Best Coast missed the best band of the night.